Holy Virgin Mary, there is none like you born in the world among women, You are daughter and handmaid of the most high King, our heavenly Father, You are mother of our most holy Lord, Jesus Christ, You are spouse of the Holy Spirit. Pray for us, With St. Michael the Archangel, All the virtues of heaven and all the saints, To your most holy, beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen __________________________
I am grateful for having discovered this beautiful praise to Our Lady nearly twenty years ago. St. Francis recited this antiphon at each of the hours in his 'Office of the Passion', which he said daily, in addition to The Divine Office.
It is said Francis loved Mary with 'inexpressible love'. He was overwhelmed with the wonder of Our Lord's 'Incarnation', which was accomplished through Mary with her fiat: and for this he praised her unceasingly. Knowing of The Poverello's fondness for, and continuous use of this antiphon, I decided long ago to make it part of my daily recitation of The Divine Office. I simply replaced the hymn, with the devotional antiphon when reciting the Office in private. For me, it is a favorite prayer to honor Mary.
I experience the heart of this prayer, as highlighting Mary's relation to the Triune God. She 'lives, moves, and has her being' as: daughter of the Father; mother of the Son; and spouse of the Holy Spirit. The antiphon inspires us to meditate on her relationship with each Person in the Blessed Trinity, which in turn, serves to illuminate our understanding of the mystery.
She is enthroned in complete and perfect relation to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: and is poised therefore, to be the perfect intercessor for us. Mary as our helper is 'the splendid woman' who cooperated fully with grace and thus reveals our potential as creatures to be filled with God's love.
In a dream, Brother Leo, a companion to St. Francis, had a vision about the preparation of the Last Judgment. In it he saw a red ladder extended from the earth to Heaven with Our Lord at the top. Next to him was Francis encouraging his brothers to climb; yet as they ascended they would fall off to the ground. Francis turned to Jesus who in turn revealed His Wounds, all bleeding, and said: "Your friars have done this to Me." Francis looked over to see a white ladder and yelled to the brethren…'run to the white ladder…that is the Holy Virgin's ladder'. They were easily able to climb the other ladder. [cf. Little Flowers of St. Francis (Fioretti), Part III, Chapter 19]
Who better to turn to, when we're burdened by anything which distances us from God? Does God the Father, seem too harsh or unfair? Look to the daughter to soothe your anxiety. Does the Holy Spirit seem stingy with his gifts? Turn to Mary; she will share what her Spouse has given her. Does the Son demand more faith than can be mustered up? Tell this to his mother, she will obtain more faith for you.
Our Lady is proclaimed Protectress and Advocate for the Franciscan family by the Seraphic Saint. Not only for the needs of the 'Order' as a whole, but for each and every member personally. Therefore, she should be called upon often and fervently for any aid. She has unfailingly provided the easier ladder for me when I needed it. Consider inserting Francis' beloved antiphon somewhere in your daily prayer.